John Paterson the new chairman of membership body SABA, Scottish Africa Business Association

AN ORGANISATION which is creating export opportunities for Scottish companies in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets has appointed a globally-focused businessman and corporate specialist as its new executive chairman.

The Scottish Africa Business Association (SABA), founded last year, has secured the services of John Paterson, who has an extensive track record of senior positions with some of the best-known names in international business, including Shell, BAT and Clyde Blowers Capital.

He will head a board comprised of business big-hitters, former politicians, academics and finance specialists, as well as liaising with an advisory council which includes the High Commissioners of Kenya, Ghana and South Africa and the Director of CBI Scotland.

SABA, established in 2019 out of the Scotland Africa Business Exchange, is taking a new approach to making connections between enterprising Scottish businesses and a continent which is offering an exponentially increasing number of investment opportunities.

Africa has some 60% of the world’s uncultivated land, offering huge potential for agribusiness, and it has become a global focus for green energy. It also has major transport and infrastructure needs as migration accelerates towards urban areas. Education and retail provide further opportunities.

Mr Paterson, who has worked in eight countries around the world, said: “For a number of reasons, Scottish business has no real voice in Africa at the moment and businesses here are in danger of missing out on one of the world’s most exciting growth stories.

“There is substantial African business to be had in areas in which Scottish enterprises excel, such as oil and gas, renewables, infrastructure, agriculture, aquaculture, fintech, health and education.

“African countries have felt in the past that the UK is too fragmented to allow easy engagement with potential trade partners and Scottish businesses may have taken the view that opportunities on the continent were difficult to identify.

“SABA is creating a whole new trade model which will help deliver tangible commercial benefits to both sides by identifying specific opportunities.”

Instead of traditional trade missions in which a large number of companies are competing for work in a small number of sectors, SABA’s role is to find out what kind of trade is required, how it is to be funded and then to identify Scottish suppliers with the capability to fulfil the requirements. Essentially, it is acting as a deal broker.

The scale of interest in the new initiative was illustrated by a conference organised in September last year by SABA CEO Frazer Lang in Scotland. The three-day event was attended by 17 African Heads of Mission and their commercial teams and supported by the UK and Scottish Governments. It was also attended by major business organisations, 12 Scottish universities and more than 100 Scottish companies.

Events with the British Ambassador to Tunisia and the High Commissioner and Trade Commissioner of Namibia have also directly resulted in five Scottish companies engaging in these countries.

Mr Lang said: “The entire team is delighted to have John Paterson on board as Executive Chairman. He has a global experience which is quite unique and a depth of expertise which is unrivalled.

“He has built and grown companies, worked with multinationals and has management and board strengths which will bring a new dimension to SABA’s strategic direction. He will guide SABA to new opportunities in both Scotland and Africa.”

One of Mr Paterson’s first major events in the new year will be the UK-Africa Investment Summit (UK-AIS) in January, which will be hosted in London by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and in which SABA will represent Scotland. It will be preceded by the UK-AIS Manufacturing event.

For more information please contact Frazer Lang on frazer.lang@africascot.com or on +44 (0) 7919 951218.